ESCAPE FROM BOTANY BAY

THE TRUE STORY OF MARY BRYANT

The most famous survivor of her time, Mary Bryant holds the record for the longest open-boat voyage by a woman. In her day, only Captain Bligh bested her, but he was an experienced navigator. In 1786, 19-year-old Mary—poor and close to starving—made a conscious decision to look hunger in the face and become a highway woman in order to survive. She and her accomplices, Catherine Fryer and Mary Haydon, took to the woodlands and became thieves. Caught early on, Mary was sentenced to hang, but was instead put on a prison ship and sent to help colonize New Holland, now called Australia. Whether this was the better fate was not obvious to the prisoners on this ship that was “full of rats and holes and will sooner sink than sail.” Forced labor in Botany Bay Colony, in the shadow of the gallows erected on the knoll, was a horrible existence, and Mary, her new husband, their two children, and seven other convicts stole a boat and fled 3,000 miles across the ocean. James Boswell defended Mary in court, and her story is well documented in interviews, journals, and histories of the day. The Hausmans write in a lively, inspirational tone, consciously portraying Mary as a hero for modern times. The inelegantly written authors’ note detracts from an otherwise solid story. This will appeal to fans of true adventure tales. (epilogue) (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-40327-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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THE BOOK THIEF

When Death tells a story, you pay attention. Liesel Meminger is a young girl growing up outside of Munich in Nazi Germany, and Death tells her story as “an attempt—a flying jump of an attempt—to prove to me that you, and your human existence, are worth it.” When her foster father helps her learn to read and she discovers the power of words, Liesel begins stealing books from Nazi book burnings and the mayor’s wife’s library. As she becomes a better reader, she becomes a writer, writing a book about her life in such a miserable time. Liesel’s experiences move Death to say, “I am haunted by humans.” How could the human race be “so ugly and so glorious” at the same time? This big, expansive novel is a leisurely working out of fate, of seemingly chance encounters and events that ultimately touch, like dominoes as they collide. The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 14, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-83100-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A gem from start to bittersweet finish.

LUCK OF THE TITANIC

Seventeen-year-old Valora Luck boards the Titanic in search of her twin brother—and destiny.

As children, Val and Jamie performed acrobatics to bring in money during lean times, dreaming of one day becoming circus stars. But after their White British mother’s death, Jamie left to work for the Atlantic Steam Company while Val stayed in London to care for their Chinese father. Now, with both parents gone, Val is determined to find what’s left of her family and forge a new path in America. There is, of course, the Chinese Exclusion Act to contend with, but Val is confident that she and Jamie can convince one of the ship’s passengers, a part owner of the Ringling Brothers Circus, to hire them and bring them into the country. Unexpected allies provide help along the way, including an American couture designer and Jamie’s fellow Chinese steamship workers. Issues of racial and class discrimination are seamlessly woven into the story as Val’s adventure takes her through the Titanic’s various decks, from a first-class suite to the boiler rooms. Her wit and pluck give the story such buoyancy that when tragedy strikes, it almost comes as a surprise. Anticipation of the inevitable adds a layer of tension to the narrative, especially with a sober note prefacing the book that informs readers, “Of the eight Chinese passengers aboard the Titanic, six survived.”

A gem from start to bittersweet finish. (Titanic diagram, list of characters, author's notes) (Historical fiction. 13-18)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4098-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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